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  • Writer's pictureAndrew J Brandt

My 5 favorite books of 2020 (so far)

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the things we've done in past years to take up our leisure time—going to the movies, watching sports, hanging out at the local brewery—have been either halted altogether or just now coming back. So, one thing I've had is a lot of time to read new books. Here's a list of my five favorite novels that have been released this year.

5. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

The first novel I read this year was also the scariest. Imaginary Friend follows a group of boys who build a treehouse out in the woods...and then find a dead body. (I know, it sounds really familiar to me as well) Some crazy supernatural things happen, and the story takes shape in the final two hundred pages. One thing about Imaginary Friend is that, even though it's pants-shittingly scary, it's also really long. It's the complete opposite of Chbosky's first novel, the lovely Perks of Being a Wallflower, which was also really cool to see Chbosky flexing his storytelling muscles.

4. The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

2020 is the year I discovered the romcom novel. There's a few on this list, but not the only ones I read this year. Abby Jimenez creates hilarious characters with wonderfully charming interactions but she also has this ability to rip your heart out of your chest, just to mend it back together for that happy ever after. THEAP is Jimenez's second novel and technically a follow-up to her debut (The Friend Zone, which I also read this year) though it follows two characters from the first book on their own romantic adventure. I loved all the references to music and the fun, flirty beginnings of the relationship that blossomed between Sloan and Jaxon. If you check this one out, you will need to read The Friend Zone first.

3.Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Corollary: I actually enjoyed Adams' first Bromance book, The Bromance Book Club, more than Undercover, however this one came out this year. It was also the last physical book I purchased before we went into quarantine back in March. Lyssa Kay Adams writes hilarious character interactions and the Bromance Book Club guys have me rolling with laughter. This selection follows one of the book club members in a "friends-to-enemies" trope as he helps a waitress take down a celebrity chef in Nashville who she caught harassing another waitress. Though a heavy subject, especially post-#metoo, Lyssa adds a lot of brevity and fun to the story. Plus, lots of romance.

2. Let the Guilty Pay by Rick Treon

This book is really high on this list, and it's not just because I know Rick. LtGP is Texas noir, dirty

and full of mystery. It follows two timelines and two identical murders twenty years apart that Rick weaves with near perfection, a crashing crescendo that left me breathless with every turn of the page. Even if I didn't know Rick, even if I didn't read this as an ARC, it would still be incredibly high on this list because, simply, it's a damn good suspense thriller.

1. The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John

It may be a bit of recency bias that puts St. John's debut at #1 on this list, but it's also a really, really good thriller. I read this over the course of a week, and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about Isabelle and the ladies on the yacht. I love how little bits of information are shared with the reader and the entire picture is put together as the story climaxes (murder in the Mediterranean!) It's sort of like Mean Girls, except everyone is super rich and it's on a yacht.

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